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Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. heads into playoffs against Lakers after trying week for family

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LA Post: Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. heads into playoffs against Lakers after trying week for family
April 19, 2024
ARNIE STAPLETON - AP

DENVER (AP) — Michael Porter Jr.'s coaches and teammates are rallying behind the Denver Nuggets starting forward who's had a trying week as the NBA's reigning champions head into their playoff opener against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Porter, 25, missed practice Friday to attend his younger brother Coban's sentencing in a drunken driving crash that killed a 42-year-old woman last year.

Coban Porter, 22, a former guard at the University of Denver, received a six-year jail sentence, which came two days after another brother, former Toronto Raptors reserve Jontay Porter, 24, received a lifetime ban from the NBA for betting on basketball and disclosing confidential information to other bettors.

The specter of each brother's punishment has hung over the family for some time, and that never appeared to adversely affect Michael Porter Jr. on the court, where he averaged 16.7 points and seven rebounds while missing just one game this season.

"It has not been easy for him. That’s why I give him credit, because he’s carrying so much in his heart and on his mind," coach Michael Malone said. "For him to go out there and do the job that he’s doing, it speaks to how much strength that young man has.”

Jamal Murray said Porter's family travails aren't a topic of conversation in the locker room.

“I don't think we've spoken to him about it. That's just not something we talk about," Murray said. “We're just keeping it professional here and we all support him. He's handling it really well. Obviously, it's not easy. But yeah, we're just letting him deal with it."

Forward Christian Braun said Porter “seems to be in a good mental space,” blocking out his family’s issues as they prepare to defend the franchise's first NBA championship against a team they swept in the Western Conference finals a year ago.

Michael Porter Jr. was the only starter who didn't speak with reporters at practice this week. But he did speak at his brother's sentencing Friday, telling the judge he was the first one in his family to hear about Coban's crash and initially thought it was Coban who had been killed.

He also told Denver District Court Judge Ericka Englert that Coban was his motivator, often encouraging him to work out when he didn't feel like it.

“It’s not often that a big brother looks up to his little brother,” Michael Porter Jr. said.

Michael Porter Jr. played in a career-high 81 games this season — and he blamed the one game he missed on having taken the wrong basketball shoes on the road.

He played in an average of just 37 games over his first five NBA seasons, including just one his rookie year while coming off a back injury that caused him to slip to 14th in the NBA draft, and nine games in 2021-22 when he underwent back surgery.

Being able to pencil in MPJ on almost every starting lineup this season was a blessing, Malone said.

“That's incredible. We talk about it all the time. I told Michael he deserves so much credit," Malone said. “The reason he dropped to us on draft night was there was concerns about his health and his back. And for him to get to this point where he's playing 81 of 82 games — and playing at a high level — is just incredible.

"He's got a tremendous family. He has a tremendous faith and I couldn't be happier for him because it has not been an easy road for him.”

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

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